As an administrator part of your role is to ensure the college or school you administer is running smoothly. If you speak to any department head and ask them to arrange for you to visit lectures, lessons and classes to see what goes on, they will often direct you carefully to certain lessons.
However, it can be far more revealing to take a sudden visit to another classroom or see a teacher in action who the department has not directed you to. One administrator told me of an interesting event when she was asked to inspect a school as part of the OFSTED team. She duly turned up and was directed, over a period of two days, to several lessons. She met children and teachers and was overall pretty much impressed with the school.
However, she began to feel she was only seeing a selective few children and staff alike. One day, she was walking down a corridor on her way to another lesson to visit when she heard quite a commotion going on in a class room they were passing. She asked the head, who was escorting her, what was going on and opened the class room door.
What faced her was chaos. A class full of startled children were sitting staring at the corner cupboard. The cupboard door was open and a small boy of around 8 years old stood throwing pencils, crayons and paper everywhere. She looked to the teacher who simply raised her eyes to the ceiling and began to cry. The class room assistant was loking on helplessly.
The administrator calmly went to the boy, took him firmly by the hand and gave him to the head. She asked him to meet her in his office, with the boy, who was in outraged tears. She spoke to the classroom assistant who took over the class room and directed the teacher to leave for a 10 minute break.
That done, she met the head – and boy- in his office. It turned out that this boy had a form of autusm. She had been carefully kept away from him because he was ‘disruptive and naughty’ . The head teacher stated that the school had tried to get rid of the boy because the school were not equipped to deal with children with an autistic disorder. They felt this one child could jeopordise their OFSTED report status.
The administrator was outraged. She called in contacts, arranged for staff to be trained in helping and understanding children with autism and got a specialist school to send a helper tohelp the boy directly and also to explain to theother children why he sometimes appeared to behave a little out of normal parameters. She explained calmly but ever so clearly that this boy was not to be ‘got rid of’, he was not to be labelled ‘naughty and disrpuptive’ but his needs were to be addressed. Furthermore, staff must be given the support they need to cope and improve safety. His teacher obvously did notknow how to deal with him an dneeded help herself. He could not be allowed to throw things in the class room but he should be helped in the first place.
She gave the school a good report but made a point of making sure they got help in the areas they needed. Now they have 3 children with autism, a specialist helper who is well trained and their reputation, far from being harmed, is actually even higher because they know how to care for children with all kinds of ability.
Sometimes, visiting every class room pays big dividends. As an administrator, never be led, always lead – even to the wrong door!